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  • Lada Matyášová

Juliette Low Seminar, Oman


Lead Out Loud. That was the motto of this year's Juliette Low seminar. This event is held regularly and is intended for girl scout and guide leaders from around the world. It also takes place in several places around the globe. I signed up, be picked, and on November 14th, 2019 I flew for a week to Muscat, Oman. It was adventurous even before the start of the event because I received a contribution to travel expenses, but somehow they forgot to let me know about it from the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS). On the day of departure, I went to work in the morning as usually, and suddenly saw a message at my mailbox, that I should pack and go, even though it one day behind scheduled start of the program. I bought my tickets, left work and went to Prague and caught my plane. I managed everything, and safely went through flight to Istanbul, and from there to Oman.

At night I didn't sleep much on planes, and I arrived in Oman at three o'clock in the morning. What I didn't count on was a two-hour row at the airport. I really waited so long to check in. When I finally got out of there, it was dawn already. Luckily, I was invited by the driver (who had been waiting for me there all the time) for a cup of tea. The journey to Sultan Qaboos's scout camp took over an hour. I arrived just for breakfast. After that I joined the program, was explained what I had missed the previous day, and I ranked among less than thirty scouts from around the world (Italy, Denmark, Ireland, Tanzania, Nigeria, Egypt, Oman, Libya, Lebanon, Kuwait, Australia, Sri Lanka, Canada). I was the only one from the Czech Republic. There were actually only two participants of the Juliette Low seminar from my country – the other, Anežka, took part in the Swiss base Our Chalet.

From then on, our days were filled with activities about leadership, supporting for young women and girls in reaching their potential, 17 Sustainable Development Goals (especially Goal Five on Gender Equality) and scouting in general. First, we started with us. Realizing one's own reality, one's own abilities and skills. In the following days we began to gradually exploring each topic. We have had long discussions, often with touching personal examples of participants, about gender equality. We shared realities of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in our countries and within each other and wondered how we could support this. We were left with gender equality as a phenomenon, and we were inspired by stories of famous women who, despite their fame, had to face unequal conditions. Many of the results of our work have been shared online with participants at other seminar venues - Great Britain, India or Kenya. In the middle of our stay we went outside the camp to explore local culture. First, we visited several important places in the area, such as Jabreen Castle, the Fort Misfat Al Abriyeen and the local Souk (market). But the biggest surprise for us was a personal meeting with a prominent Omani personality, Madame Zahra bint Salim AlOufi. Which, even though she attended school only to the third grade, because she was married to an older man, managed to catch up with everything by herself, raise seven children, and establish a school for children from nearby at her home. Her idea of ​​educating children who either did not attend school or could not get into it for financial or geographical obstacles, has spread over the years. However, in order to be able to pay for aids and materials for students, she began selling home-cooked food to close businesses and individuals. She got up every day at three in the morning to cook food. At noon she gave it off, to be able to return in the afternoon to start educating the kids. Her idea took hold and today her project has twenty-two classes for five hundred students, especially in remote mountain villages. In 2017, she received the Sultan Qaboos Award for Volunteer Work, as well as many other awards from national and international institutions.

Even after the mornings and afternoons we had no rest. On the one hand we had an evening evaluation of the day and reflection. But also, interesting programs after dinner. One evening we had, was a screening of the film Hidden Figures, even with popcorn, which I highly recommend. We couldn't see it all because of technical problems, but I still know, it's worth it. You should check it too. The next day we had a campfire together with cultural presentations, which beautifully evolved into a show of national costumes and a place to exchange badges and scarves. We have also supported our creativity by inventing another use of a clay incense pot with incense, which is used here to burn resin or incense quite commonly. And at the very end, of course, we had a wonderful ceremony in which we saw the performance of children from art school. And we were given commemorative plaques directly from the hands of the head of the Oman Scouts and Girl Scouts. As a final point, they then took us to the desert oasis for dinner, where we could try grilled delicacies, and ride a dromedary.

But it's not just that. That I visited Oman for a week, met international friends and tried out activities on seminar topics. Upon arrival home, work is expected from me. In the form of a "100 girl project" that will reach at least a hundred young women. Focused on leadership and gender equality. And I do not know if this should remain a mystery, because my idea is not yet verified or approved by anyone, but I will tell you anyway. I would like to create a national Gender Equality Badge. Keep your fingers crossed for the girl scouts, who will want to learn to use a drill or coding at computer. Or to feel inspired by the stories of influential women in their communities. Because that's what this is about. I am looking forward to seeing the young girl scouts proudly sew this additional badge to their scout uniforms.

"It was an amazing week, I have experienced with other young women from all over the world at the Juliette Low Seminar," I wrote to the organizers in an appreciation letter. “that I have never forget. I feel stronger, more powerful and more confident now. I know, I have tools and methods, how to transfer those to younger generation in my neighbourhood, and how become a change maker. I have planned a project about gender equality, that would have never been created without Juliette Low Seminar and that its impact would have never been made on those several decades of young women, without this. I feel blessed and honoured to be the one, who will hold this torch of inspiration and wisdom for others.

Lada Matyášová


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